~ Written by Jessica Price. This review originally appeared in Seattle Gay News (July 26, 2013)
Even in 2013 I won’t part with my copy of Hole’s My Body, the Hand Grenade rarities compilation, nor will I ever forget lying around my girlfriend’s apartment in 1994 when she and her roommate played Live Through This manically all summer like the official soundtrack to pissed off female solidarity that it was. In the fall, Hole played the Houston nightclub where the three of us worked; it was Halloween night, six months after Kurt Cobain committed suicide and four since Hole bassist Kristen Pfaff overdosed. There were concerns whether Courtney, unpredictable and reportedly running around the neighborhood buying hair dye from Eckerd Drugs and careening around town hours before the show, would actually be sober enough to pull off the gig. But she did. Late, and with black dye running down her neck, she played the show ferociously, wildly, and wonderfully. We were all pulling for her, one thousand percent.
That was nearly twenty years ago. The believers have grown up as Courtney has (technically speaking), but the black sheep of rock goddesses has tested our devotion along the way. “How many of you are gay?” was Courtney Love’s first complete sentence to Seattle’s Moore Theatre Tuesday night. As hands shot up around the room it became apparent that Ms. Love knows which side her bread is buttered on. “Thank fucking God,” she said, leading off with “Plump”.
Ticketing sites touted the event as “Courtney Love performing songs from Live Through This, Celebrity Skin, and Nobody’s Daughter including ‘Violet’, ‘Miss World’, ‘Celebrity Skin’, ‘Malibu’, ’Skinny Little Bitch’, and more.” A relatively well-behaved Love, now 49, delivered the hits as advertised; give or take a few odds and ends like “Gold Dust Woman” and “Pretty On the Inside”. Displeased with the turnout, Courtney repeatedly commented on the size of the Moore, its “skid row Seattle” location, the number of attendees (for the record, the theatre appeared full from floor level, though perhaps that was boosted by last minute Groupon-style deals, of which there were reportedly many). Given the circumstances – no new album since 2010’s lukewarm Nobody’s Daughter – perhaps the world-weary Courtney should’ve lightened up and lowered her expectations just a little. “It’s okay, we’ll be back in December and we’ll have a new record then,” she said (it’s rumored Love is working on another solo album titled Died Blonde).
The punk diva wasn’t without wit (“Aw…panties..” she said, when some were launched at her) or princess-like demands (“Can I have my guitar??” she whined, as a well-trained boy picked up the instrument two feet behind her and gently placed it over the star’s non-yielding shoulders). She looked healthy and put together, if not a little lippy, channeling her idol Stevie Nicks in a black vest and flowing gauzy sleeves. Her voice sounded roughly the same as it did in the 90s, perhaps just a little huskier between trademark howls. There might have been some out of breath pacing in a short and sweet “Miss World” just before the encore- or maybe she just wanted to smoke another cigarette. “It does take its toll,” she said. After a sort of crowd fluffer chastised the audience to call her name, Courtney reappeared, barefoot and smoking in a shapeless nightgown for the acoustic encore.
Most interesting throughout the proceedings was trying to pinpoint Courtney’s appeal in 2013. She’s certainly had her moments of brilliance (Live Through This, a Golden Globe-nominated lead role in The People vs. Larry Flynt), but in recent years her music has been spotty at best, while her tabloid antics hit an all-time high. Tuesday’s show wasn’t a spectacle; neither was it inspiring. Though the set worked, the barely controlled chaos that catapulted Hole into the big time was gone. It could simply be that the sparks of brilliance and menacing tension Hole once threw off can’t be re-created. That you had to be there. And in time all the bad behavior, drug-addled antics, and displays of boobage have overshadowed what we wanted her to be and what she used to be. A true badass is what we hoped for… but things haven’t turned out that way.
The truth about Courtney Love seems to pop up in her lyrics, which at times border on confessional: “I fake it so real, I am beyond fake” (“Doll Parts”), “I’ve been tortured and scorned since the day that I was born, but I don’t know who I am…I’m so sorry I’m so weak, and I’ve turned into a freak” (“Letter to God”).